A preview of the 77th annual Poly Royal Rodeo
The Poly Royal Rodeo has always been a special event for Cuesta College rodeo head coach Clint Pearce.
“It’s a real family tradition,” Clint Pearce said this week. “And even though the points are worth no more than any other rodeo, it means a whole lot more. For a lot of these athletes, it will be the most important college rodeo they’ll ever go to. It’s certainly a long-standing tradition in the college rodeo world as well.”
This year, that sentiment will be especially true.
For the 77th edition of the Poly Royal Rodeo — set for Friday and Saturday — it will be held for the first time at the 11,000-seat Alex G. Spanos Stadium, which serves as the primary venue for the Cal Poly football and soccer teams.
It was the result of Cal Poly head coach Ben Londo’s vision, carried out by an Akron, Ohio-based company that trucked in 2,000 cubic yards of soil to convert the stadium into a rodeo venue. It will then be converted back to its normal state, all within a 96-hour window so as not to damage the facility’s grass field.
The Poly Royal Rodeo was already considered a highlight of the college season. That will be especially true with the 77th edition of the event being held at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
The sheer magnitude of the undertaking aside, the event is sure to have a major impact on the Cal Poly and Cuesta rodeo programs — which practice together and are very closely intertwined — that are already on an upswing under Londo’s leadership.
“Once I got here and just learned about the history and the legacy and obviously seeing (the team) grow over the last four years has been such a great experience,” Cal Poly calf roper Colton Farquer said. “I’m so glad I got to be part of that and just witness that. I think it was the best choice.”
Londo’s background, having graduated from Cal Poly as a two-time all-around national champion before becoming a PRCA rider in 2003, has helped attract top talent to the team since he took over as coach four years ago. He was also instrumental in getting Cuesta’s team off the ground three years ago to serve as a kind of feeder program to Cal Poly.
As it happens, the Cuesta men’s team is currently No. 1 in both the West Region and National rankings of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, college rodeo’s governing body.
“It’s really exciting,” Pearce said.
Needless to say, both Cuesta and Cal Poly will be major players in this weekend’s event, which falls during the final stretch of the West Coast Region circuit. The Poly Royal Rodeo is set a day after Cuesta’s own event, which was held Friday at Cal Poly’s normal rodeo arena, and is the eighth of a 10-rodeo season leading to College National Finals in Casper, Wyoming, in June.
The Cuesta and Cal Poly men’s and women’s teams compete against West Hills College, Fresno State, Lassen College, Western Nevada College, UNLV and Feather River College in the West Coast Region. Cuesta sits atop the men’s standings with 4,764.5 points, more than a 1,200-point advantage over West Hills. Cal Poly sits in fourth with 2,449.5 points.
Once I got here and just learned about the history and the legacy and obviously seeing (the team) grow over the last four years has been such a great experience.
Cal Poly calf roper Colton Farquer
The Cal Poly women’s team is ranked fourth, and Cuesta women rank fifth.
“Have a good rodeo and everybody on our team compete well and win some points and kind of help us move up the standings before the regional finals would help a lot, help our team either win the region or be second in the region,” Farquer, the No. 1 in the tie down roping standings in the West Coast Region, said of his team’s goals for its home event.
The top two teams in the region advance to the finals, and the top three individuals in each event also qualify.
In addition to Farquer, Cal Poly’s other top-ranked men include Wade Brown (third, bareback riding), Brody Gill (third, team roping header). Cal Poly features five ranked barrel racers on the women’s team: Sage Massey, first; Madelyn Celio, second; Amy Brown, fourth; Kayla Nichol, fifth; and Katie Rice, seventh. Mattie Work is ranked third in breakaway roping, and Macey Cox is third in goat tying.
Ranked Cuesta men include Aaron Williams and Jacob Gardner (No. 1 and 2, respectively, bull riding), Will Centoni (third, saddle bronc riding) Kyle Brown (sixth, tie down roping), Roman Reyes (fourth, steer wrestling), Tristan Ruffoni (sixth, team roping header) and Dalton Pearce (sixth, team roping heeler).
The rodeo also will include stunts, clown acts, calf dressing and a country music concert following the conclusion of Saturday night’s competition.
Most of all, the event will mimic as close to a professional rodeo atmosphere of any college event in the country.
“I thought, ‘Wow, that’s going to be a spectacular event,’ and it really will be,” Pearce said. “It was very exciting when I heard it was a possibility and even more so when I heard it was go.”
77TH ANNUAL POLY ROYAL RODEO
When: 7 p.m. Friday, 5:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Alex G. Spanos Stadium
Tickets: Visit www.tickets.calpoly.edu